Timothy Findley's The Wars remains one of Canada's most-discussed pieces of fiction. Based partly on the war-time correspondence of his uncle Thomas (Tif) Irving Findley, The Wars, with its rich description of song, literature, and works of art from the First World War, helped to pull the multi-talented writer from near obscurity as a novelist.
Born in 1930, in the fashionable Rosedale district of Toronto, Findley wanted to be an artist, studying both dance and acting. It was while in London, England as part of the cast of The Matchmaker that the young actor was convinced that his true vocation was as a writer.
Back in Canada, Findley wrote scripts for film, radio, and television, including the CBC's highly acclaimed historical docu-drama, The National Dream. The mini-series earned Findley and his writing partner, William Whitehead, an ACTRA award.
Findley's first two novels did not meet with similar success. Uncle Tif's "mud experience" in The Great War would change that.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to The Wars being published was not Findley's publisher but his agent. The agent was tough on his writers, and had a reputation of burning manuscripts if the work did not meet his exacting standards - an experience that Findley was not spared early on in his career.
When Findley's third book hit the shelves in 1977, it gave him both the recognition as a major Canadian writer and the Governor General's Literature Award. The book explores many of the obsessions that colour all his writing: violence, loneliness, a concern for animal rights, and the survival of the individual in a world of madness.
Findley believes that a writer has a responsibility to speak out about what is wrong with society, and has been very active in the Canadian writing community, helping to found the Writers' Union of Canada and serve as the president of the Canadian chapter of P.E.N. International.
The author acted out his complex life and passion in the 1992 National Film Board of Canada production, Timothy Findley: Anatomy of a Writer.
Findley's impressive body of work includes 10 novels, a memoir, three collections of short stories, plays, and screenplays including the 1981 movie version of The Wars. He has also received numerous awards and honours including the Officer of the Order of Canada.
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Timothy Findley relies on the writing experience to actually name the characters in his novels. "Applied names never work for me," he writes. "Characters have their own names and will tell you, if you wait."